Horse Racing

Racing in Massachusetts may be coming back

A group that hopes to revive horse racing in Massachusetts is in the process of completing an application to the Massachusetts Equestrian Commission for a license to operate a track in the town of Hardwick. The project, dubbed Commonwealth Equine and Agricultural Center, is far enough away that there could be a limited number of races on offer at the new track as soon as next year.

Hardwick is located in the center of the state, about 75 miles west of Boston. The track will be located at the site of Great Meadowbrook Ranch, a 360-acre site that started off as a dairy farm and has been used as an equestrian training center.

Lou Raffetto, former vice president of racing at Suffolk Downs and an adviser to the Commonwealth Group, said: “We have to apply for a license by September 30. “Honestly, that sounds crazy, I hope. Hope we can race next year. The plan for next year will be to have two festival-style weekends in the fall, if we can get everything together. This is very real.”

The days of Suffolk Downs were numbered as the song owners lost their bid to get a casino license. As some form of live racing is required to maintain the simulation licence, the track is held for a short term every year from 2015 to 2019. But with a property development plan poised to materialize, the race is on. was paused after mini 2019 -meet.

Since then, there have been several attempts to find new locations to open a new racecourse in the state, but all have encountered insurmountable obstacles. A proposed racetrack in the town of Sturbridge was shot down by the voters of that town. Plans to rebuild and reopen the Great Barrington Fair also failed to flourish.

According to Raffetto, Hardwick’s proposal would not have to be before the town’s voters and all that was needed was a permit that could be issued by the town.

“We are very confident that it will happen,” he said. “The principals and architects had a great meeting with the planning board and selectors on Tuesday. What’s really great about it is that everyone is really supportive. In other towns in the past, you would go there on the defensive. These people asked the right questions and were very supportive of the program. “

Efforts to revive racing in Massachusetts got a much-needed boost when sports betting was legalized in the state earlier this year. By law, anyone with a racing license is allowed to have a sports betting license. Commonwealth Equine, whose principal is former Suffolk owner Richard Fields and husband and wife team Armand and Robin Kalaidjian, has no plans to host on-site sports betting at the proposed track but could offer it online. . The belief is that it is possible to earn enough money from sports betting to support a new racetrack.

Another factor in the Commonwealth’s favor is having a lot of money in the wallet waiting to be extracted. Although it has been dormant for more than three years, the Thoroughbred industry in the state still enjoys a portion of the revenue from the slot machines generated at the Plainridge mining line. That pool has grown to about $22 million.

Raffetto estimates his earnings to be around $750,000 a day, and special maiden weight classes will cost $75,000. With the Kentucky Downs as the model, there will be only the race on grass and it will be conducted on a one-mile circuit with movable tracks.

The tentative plan is that the track will run four days in 2023, twice on the weekend of September 9 and 10 and again twice on the weekend of September 30 to October. 1. Long-term goals would be to extend the meeting, perhaps to eight days a year, with a focus on fall days. Raffetto said the plan is to build a small stand that can hold about 2,000 people and an area on the parking lot will be cleared to accommodate more fans.

“Our goal is to get 4,000, 5,000 people to come and experience this,” Raffetto said. “I think that’s realistic. We will try to have fun and give the horsemen a chance to make money. I think the riders will be very supportive of this.”

The plans for the facility extend beyond the race meeting.

“When it comes to horses, there will be a little bit of everything, racing, breeding and retirement,” says Raffetto. “There will be areas dedicated to the retirement of horses. We will consider bringing in some mares and buying or renting a stallion. “

With the demise of Suffolk, the livestock industry in the state disappeared completely. According to The Jockey Club, only two mares will be bred in Massachusetts in 2021.

Other plans include opening an upscale restaurant on site as well as a breakfast restaurant.

Raffetto said a name for the new song has yet to be chosen.

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